Do you remember back in 2008, when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton betook themselves to Unity, N.H., for post-primary bonding? Clinton-Sanders seems like a tougher merge. Maybe they could be a little less ambitious and just get together in Friendly, W.Va.
There’s also Smileyberg, Kan. Although it’s sort of a ghost town, which isn’t great for analogies.
So far, Bernie Sanders doesn’t seem to be in a Smileyberg state of mind. He met with President Barack Obama on Thursday, but in his post-primary speech to supporters he was vowing to battle on to the convention.
“I am pretty good at arithmetic and I know that the fight in front of us is a very, very steep fight,” he said, in what may have been the biggest understatement of the campaign.
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“We are going to fight hard to win the primary in Washington, D.C.,” he added.
Yes, there’s one more primary left, on Tuesday. But no one is going to pay any attention. I’m sorry, D.C. voters. You don’t have a senator, you’ve got about one-fifth of a member of Congress and now we’re going to totally ignore your opinion about the presidential nomination. You deserve better. Tell them next time to let you go before New Hampshire.
The road to Unity eight years ago wasn’t devoid of potholes. Before the convention, Clinton was bitter and her supporters were furious. They wanted to put her name in nomination, make speeches about her superiority as a candidate and then cast all their delegate votes for her just to make it clear to the Obama people that they hadn’t changed their minds.
In the end, there was a deal. Clinton released her delegates and urged everyone to support Obama. Everyone didn’t comply. One of the most ardent Hillary camps was called PUMA, which either meant People United Means Action or Party Unity My Ass, depending on your mood.
The PUMA people never came around. On Election Day, a group founder, Will Bower, told CNN that he had voted for John McCain because “I didn’t want to validate corruption or reward the campaign for what I thought was a fraudulent victory.”
Does that sound familiar? People who lose elections always suspect foul play, but the first useful thing that Sanders needs to do is to stop suggesting that Clinton stole the nomination. The primary rules are weird, but you cannot keep complaining about the role of superdelegates when the winner is the person who got 16.2 million votes to your 12.3 million.
Unless, of course, you’re Donald Trump.
“To all of those Bernie Sanders voters who have been left out in the cold by a rigged system of superdelegates, we welcome you with open arms,” he said Tuesday.
This was during the speech in which he attempted to prove that he could behave like a normal candidate and read lines from a teleprompter, none of them having to do with the capacity of Mexican-American judges to deliver fair verdicts.
And how did it go? Well, it turns out that Trump being a normal candidate is so dull that the family members behind him on the stage looked ready to nod off. This is never going to last.
But about the Democrats.
The real difference between today and 2008 is that the two feuding candidates have serious policy differences. Also, Sanders is not going to be moved by any considerations of his future in the party, of which he has been a member for about three minutes. To bring him and his supporters around, Clinton will probably have to make some concessions on issues they care about.
And that would be a good thing for everyone. The Democrats might not need every Sanders supporter this November, but the party most definitely needs an infusion of younger progressive leadership at every level. Really, right now it looks as if everybody’s been in office since the birth of disco.
Clinton has actually come around on some of Sanders’ issues already, although she hasn’t exactly been yelling from the rooftops. She supports free tuition at public community colleges. She’s opposed to reducing any Social Security benefits. She’s backtracked on free trade. But now that the primaries are over and she’s about to be pitted against Trump, Sanders has every right to suspect that she'll be inclined to move to the squishy middle.
That would mean a campaign in which Clinton talks a lot about bringing us together and being president for all Americans, which sounds good but doesn’t really mean much. Candidates always say stuff like that. Zachary Taylor wanted to be president for all Americans and what did he deliver? The destruction of the Whig Party and Millard Fillmore.
This is the obvious path: Sanders admits Clinton won fair and square. Clinton takes some big, serious jumps on policy. Otherwise, I understand the hotel rates in War, W.Va., are very reasonable this time of year.